Artopia Preview: Michah Simmons, Artist And Bouncer

The Houston Press Artopia party is Saturday, and Hair Balls is previewing a different participating artist each day this week. Artopia will feature 27 artists, as well as live art and music performances, fashion shows, and a presentation of the Press's MasterMind awards. For more details and ticket information, click here


If you've been unruly drunk and tossed out of any number of Houston bars during the last couple of decades, you might know Micah Simmons. He moved around from bars in Shepherd Plaza, Montrose and downtown for the last 17 years working as a bouncer. He still does.

"It's how I pay the rent," Simmons tells Hair Balls.
But he also paints and does it well, and if he never got involved with what he calls "the night scene," his art career may have never happened.
In 2000, Simmons had graduated college but wasn't getting much accomplished besides bouncing drunks out of bars. He was trying to get enough money saved to go back to art school, but he wasn't having luck.


He also had an eye condition that caused a deformity in his cornea, which caused him to see like he was looking through a glass brick or fogged glass.
"For so long, I was painting without clear vision," he says.

Simmons eventually found his salvation as an artist in the same clubs where he worked as a bouncer.

"Since I couldn't get the degree, I decided that I would just do art however I could do it," Simmons says.

It started after he saw an artist friend he hadn't seen in awhile, and that friend told Simmons about "live art" he was doing, showing up at events with bands or DJs and painting during the performances. Simmons went along one night and realized music was the key to his art.

"Instead of producing work by sight, I was producing work by feel, how the music made me feel," he says. "If I don't feel it, I'm not good at painting."

About three years ago, his vision deteriorated to the point that the options became a cornea transplant or not seeing at all. He had the surgery, and for the first time in 26 years, Simmons says, he opened his eyes and "was able to see clear as day."

With his corrected vision, Simmons started trying to do some studio-type work, getting out of the clubs and painting alone. But even then, he says, he needed his iPod.

"I still got to have the music," Simmons says. "It unlocks a lot for me."

One of the pieces Simmons is showing at Artopia was painted live a couple weeks ago at Rich's while a couple of his DJ buddies performed.

Simmons would like to support himself full-time with his art one day, but until then, he's sticking with what he knows.

"I have been fortunate to sell one or two [paintings] a month, but that isn't going to pay the bills," Simmons says. "That's why I still have to sit in front of a door."

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